Gun Crazy (1950)
The original title of Joseph H. Lewis' work was "Deadly Is the Female" which roughly sums up the chauvinism of the film and the overriding theme of the femme fatale, though I do think that "Gun Crazy" is a much better title for the film. While I was watching the movie, it was impossible to forget the thought of the NRA: guns don't kill people, people kill people. Indeed, "Gun Crazy" seems to agree with this sentiment, or does it? Well, that's for you to decide.
The movie begins with flashbacks of flashbacks and a rainy night. A young boy later identified as Barton or Bart (John Dall as an adult) throws a rock into the window of a shop and steals a gun. He barely makes it to the sidewalk before he trips and falls, the gun sliding from his coat. He gets caught and taken to court where we learn of his affinity for firearms. When he was younger, he got a pellet gun. One day, he killed a chick (a little fuzzy bird, that is, I though I'd clarify in case there was any misunderstanding) and it probably scarred him for life. He wasn't able to shoot a living thing again, but he was able to shoot. Bart loves guns.
The judge in the case of the stolen gun sends Bart away to a correctional school and after growing up and serving in the military, Bart returns to his home town to find that everyone has grown up. On sheer coincidence there is a traveling circus at the town and Bart's friends take him to go see. One of the side-attractions is a sharp-shooting girl who doesn't look that bad in a sexy cowgirl outfit. Bart is immediately attracted to her....skill.
After winning a contest, Bart joins the circus so he can pursue the woman whose name turns out to be Laurie (Peggy Cummins). The boss-man doesn't approve of these two having a relationship, mainly because he wants Laurie for himself and he thinks that holding blackmail over her head will endear her to him...he's wrong.
One night, the duo spilt and run off.
They get married quickly and start a whirl-wind romance, which dies slowly. Laurie is bored and to fill her empty minutes, she decides that she wants to start a crime spree. She's a selfish girl, at one time even saying "I want stuff. Big stuff!"
Now it's not all as criminally sexist as all that. In fact, we begin to wonder if Bart isn't the more dangerous mind here. Yes, she is manipulative; but not in the way that we have come to expect from movies. In 1944, we got introduced to Phyllis Dietrichson who predates Alex Forrest from "Fatal Attraction"; but these two roles have something in common—sex appeal. Dietrichson was sultry and seduced the man, Alex was the general conclusion to a woman scorned and not given enough sexual attention, driven to hysteria by it.
Yet Laurie is of a different world than them. She couldn't care less. She doesn't need a man; but as long as she has one, she might as well use him...that, and I believe she genuinely loves him in her own way.
That all being said, "Gun Crazy" is deeply fascinating and provokes the mind. It was a movie that saw little success in its day and has become a cult classic.
The crime is fun to watch and compelling, suspenseful even. It's realistic, wonderfully climactic, and full of good performances. The camera shots from the back of the car, stretching out for minutes, are almost worth watching the whole movie for.
Posted by Micah Jones